MY SECRET TO THE BEST GREEN APPLE PIE SMOOTHIE

I've never been much of a breakfast person, with the exception of pancakes and bacon on Sunday mornings, or my occasional love affair with an almond croissant [treat yo self sometimes, seriously!]. I will cook and eat eggs a couple times a week, but more often than not, my morning routine involves all things liquid: water, coffee, tea, juice, and varying iterations of smoothies. Most of the time, they taste 'healthy' and lack sweetness. I know, I know, curbing that need for sweets is sort of the point of clean and healthy eating, but sometimes I just want a smoothie that tastes delicious, a smoothie so good it could almost pass for dessert.  Herein lies the magic found in my latest smoothie recipe. It's green. I'm talking wicked witch of the west GREEN, plants on my bookshelves green [as you can see in the photo!], chock full of nutrients and healthy things GREEN.  How did I get this smoothie to be so verdant AND so tasty? Learn my secrets below!

First and foremost, the key to getting that impossibly gorgeous green hue is with an ingredient you may or may not have used before: spirulina. Spirulina is a blue-green algae, which may seem terrifying to put in your food, but I promise this added NO strange taste to this smoothie.  It smells a bit odd out of the jar, but there's absolutely no taste or aftertaste, and that's all I really care about.  I should also mention, once it's blended in with other ingredients, I didn't catch any funny aromas either.  All it does is add amino acids, chlorophyll, essential fatty acids, and vitamins A, E, and B-12 to your smoothie. It has all kinds of health benefits I don't need to write out, since plenty of people have already done the work for me [like Dr. Axe here or Thrive]. I purchased my supply through Thrive Market, which BTW if you're looking to up your healthy eating game, the free trial through Thrive is well worth it. I loved it so much, I went ahead and continued to pay the yearly subscription.  It's like Amazon Prime, but for healthy things!

I did add a couple other green bits to the recipe, but spirulina is essential for completely transforming this otherwise blah-looking smoothie! Plus, did I mention this smoothie tastes like APPLE PIE?! I'd 100% sip on this at the end of the day in lieu of dessert. It's THAT good!

THE BEST GREEN APPLE PIE SMOOTHIE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 teaspoons spirulina powder
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce [or you can chop up an apple]
  • 8 almonds
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp maple syrup [you can always add another if you find you want it a little sweeter!]
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1/4 of a frozen banana [I chop mine into quarters and freeze them]
  • 1/2-3/4 cup almond or coconut-almond milk [depends on how liquid-y you prefer your smoothies!]
  • 6 baby spinach leaves
  • 1 kale leaf, stems and any tough parts removed

DIRECTIONS:

  • Blend everything together! [because we're talking about a smoothie here, so that's the extent of the directions!]

MAKES 2 SERVINGS

SERIOUSLY DELICIOUS SALAD: SPICED SEA BASS, SWEET POTATO AND KALE SALAD WITH AVOCADO VINAIGRETTE + TOASTED PEPITAS

I'm wrapping up my month long experiment of cooking with Blue Apron. There were quite a few recipes I loved and would without a doubt make again and again! This Whole 30 dinner was a favorite of mine.  It's a healthy meal, but it's also incredibly flavorful and full of delicious, fresh ingredients.  One of my goals this year is to incorporate as many vegetables as I can into each meal, and work on creating more interesting salad options. I never thought to add sweet potatoes to a salad, but it really helps bulk up this dish and keep it filling. For the protein, Blue Apron sent filets of barramundi, a sea bass that I hadn't tried before. If you can't find sea bass at your grocery, I feel like any firm white fish would work well [cod is typically an easy one to come by] or you can never really go wrong with salmon in my opinion! The dressing was made creamy and rich by mixing avocado into the dressing, as well as adding slices of it to the salad. By far the best part of this meal were the toasted pumpkin seeds [aka pepitas!]. They're SO delicious, I'd literally put them on any dish at this point! 

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MEXICAN-SPICED SEA BASS, SWEET POTATO AND KALE SALAD WITH AVOCADO VINAGRETTE + TOASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS [ADAPTED FROM BLUE APRON]

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 6oz sea bass filets
  • 1 clove garlic, minced and mashed
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime
  • 1 clementine
  • 1 bunch kale, washed and dried, stems removed and thinly sliced
  • 2 TB pumpkin seeds
  • 1 jalepeno, seeded and minced
  • Spice mix: 1tsp garlic powder, 1tsp ancho chili powder, 1/4tsp smoked paprika, 1/4tsp cumin
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 425. 
  • Place sliced sweet potatoes on a large sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and about half of the spice mix.
  • Toss to combine and arrange in an even layer.
  • Roast, flipping halfway through for about 20 minutes until lightly browned. [tip: all ovens are a bit different temperature-wise, so make sure to keep an eye on any vegetables you roast, especially when they're thinly sliced like these!]. Remove from oven.
  • Half the avocado and thinly slice one half, topping with a squeeze of lime juice. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
  • Place the other half of the avocado in a large bowl and add the remainder of the lemon juice and mash until smooth, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Zest the clementine, adding it to the large bowl, as well as the juice from the clementine.
  • Add 2-3 TBsp extra virgin olive oil to the bowl, as well as the garlic and jalepeno. Whisk to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the sliced kale and toss to thoroughly coat [tip: I always use my hands to massage the dressing into kale and it makes a HUGE difference!]
  • While the kale marinates, add a small drizzle of olive oil to a pan and heat to medium-high. Add the pumpkin seeds, season with salt and pepper and toast stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and season with salt.
  • Pat the fish filets dry with paper towels, season on both sides with salt and pepper and the remaining spice blend.
  • In the pan, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium high . Add filets skin side down and cook for 3-5 minutes until the skin is crisp. Flip and cook another 2-3 minutes until lightly browned.
  • Toss the roasted sweet potatoes with the kale and season if needed.
  • Serve the salad on a large plate and top with the fish filet, sliced avocado and toasted pumpkin seeds.
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DRINK PAIRING: I happened to try this new [to me] beer that tasted DELICIOUS with this dish! Not sure how available Monday Night Brewing is in the world, but if you see it, give their Blind Pirate Blood Orange IPA a try.  I'm not a massive IPA drinker, but the citrus in the dressing paired perfectly with this beer! 

I really can't recommend this recipe enough! If you're not into fish, I'd honestly eat this salad without any protein, but it would also work well subbing chicken breast or sirloin steak.  SO GOOD.

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BLUE APRON FOR A MONTH: TOP CHEF STRIP STEAK WITH SWEET CHILI GLAZED VEGETABLES

I've never tried a food subscription service, partly because I'm an avid cook and almost always come up with my own recipes and cook with variety. I also work from home, so there's no real impetus to save time from heading to the grocery [the main draw of Blue Apron and others like it].  But a few factors swayed me to give Blue Apron a try this month.  For the first two months of the year, they're featuring Whole 30 recipes, and since I'm still semi on the Whole30 bandwagon, I was eager to soak up more Whole30 recipes to replicate at home. This particular recipe isn't Whole30, but it was the first one I decided to try for good reason.  I had just been binge watching the latest season of Top Chef, and saw a quickfire challenge where this recipe was developed and was the winner! I fangirl pretty hard over everything Top Chef, so when my first Blue Apron box arrived, I dug straight in for this recipe!

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At first the recipe seemed a bit simple [I cook with these asian ingredients often], but the flavors were so well developed by the time I was done with it!  I followed the well laid out instruction card thoroughly [and the photos really help!], not taking any short cuts or making any adjustments, a challenge for someone like me who loves to improvise and cook with what's on hand. But I wanted to know: if I followed everything down to the most minute of details, would I get a dish I'd be proud of? And the answer was a resounding YES! 

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PRO TIP: The biggest nugget of info I got from this dish was how they cooked the vegetables. The recipe called for the sweet chili glaze to be added to the already hot pan just before the bok choy. It seems like a small step, but I'd normally just steam it or saute it in oil and garlic, keeping it far from anything sticky or sweet until after it came off the heat, for fear it would burn and create a bitter taste to the vegetables. But since the bok choy and glaze only cooked together for 4-5 minutes, the bok choy let off enough water to thin out the glaze. Frequent stirring also prevented any burning.  It then had me turn the heat off and add lime juice, giving the greens that punch and vibrance I tasted later on.  

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The meat was cooked to perfection [and marinated for just long enough to give it flavor and a nice char], and the quick pickled radishes were a nice crunch. The jasmine rice was delicious and helped sop up the delicious glaze and jus from the meat, but honestly, I would have been fine with a doubled up portion of the vegetables if I'd skipped out on the rice. 

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My only grip was there wasn't enough leftover at the end of the meal! I typically cook with the intention of lunch leftovers for the next day, and my experience with Blue Apron so far shows they sometimes provide a bit extra when it comes to vegetables or carbs, but they're pretty strict with the meat portions. I believe we each got 5 ounces, which was just the right amount for dinner, but oh if I could have had just a little bit more! 

Top Chef Seared Grass-fed Steaks

with Sweet Chili-Glazed Vegetables [from Blue Apron] Serves 2

Prepare the ingredients & make the glaze:

Wash and dry the fresh produce. Quarter the mushrooms. Peel and thinly slice the shallot. Peel and finely chop the ginger. Cut off and discard the root end of the bok choy; roughly chop. Quarter the lime. Cut off and discard the ends of the radishes; thinly slice into rounds. Place in a bowl and top with the juice of 1 lime wedge and a drizzle of olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat. In a bowl, combine the ponzu saucesweet chili saucesugar,1/4 cup of water, and as much of the soy marinade as you’d like.

Cook the rice:

In a medium pot, combine the ricea big pinch of salt, and 1 1/2 cups of water; heat to boiling on high. Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook 12 to 14 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Turn off the heat and fluff with a fork. Cover to keep warm.

Cook the steaks:

While the rice cooks, pat the steaks dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper on both sides. In a large pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the seasoned steaks and cook 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare, or until browned and cooked to your desired degree of doneness. Leaving any browned bits (or fond) in the pan, transfer to a cutting board and let rest for at least 5 minutes.

Cook the vegetables:

While the steaks rest, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan of reserved fond; heat on medium-high until hot. Add the quartered mushrooms in an even layer. Cook, without stirring, 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly browned and slightly softened. Add the sliced shallot and chopped ginger; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until fragrant.

Glaze the vegetables:

Add the glaze and chopped bok choy to the pan; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes, or until the glaze is slightly thickened and the vegetables have softened. Turn off the heat and stir in the juice of the remaining lime wedges. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slice the steaks & serve your dish:

Find the lines of muscle (or grain) on the rested steaks; thinly slice crosswise against the grain. Serve the sliced steaks with the cooked rice and glazed vegetables. Garnish with the marinated radishes (draining before adding). Enjoy!